Who’s Afraid of The Ukulele?

Is there such a thing as a Ukulele phobia?  I was forced to ponder this question after the addition of a new puppy to our home.

As you have probably learnt from previous blogs on this site, I love to play my uke and interact with a dog.  Our other dog, although being a bit naughty as a puppy, is never bothered by the sound of the ukulele.  When we first brought the new puppy home, I practiced my uke while standing in the same room and everything seemed fine.  A few days later when we had a guest, I got out my ukulele to demonstrate a song.  I accidentally shut the lid of the case when she was standing nearby and she jumped.  When I started to play the puppy became distressed and ran away.  She would not come anywhere near me while I was playing the uke and I was not even playing loudly.  I tried to show her the instrument on her level.  She sniffed it but when I carefully plucked the G string, she ran away again.  I wondered what I had done wrong as she was not bothered the first time I played when she was in the room.

When you Google “ukulele phobia” there is only one case of a human who has a phobia about ukuleles (because they thought it looked like an alien), but there is nothing about dogs being scared of this harmless instrument.  It must be uncommon for dogs to have this particular fear as there are plenty of videos on You Tube with dogs trying to play the uke or doing a sing-a-long and they look perfectly happy.

How could I prevent the puppy’s anxiety about the ukulele from developing into a permanent phobia?  I love to play my ukulele and it is a big part of my life, so I thought that the solution was to introduce it gradually.  To get her used to the instrument I left it in it’s case on the floor.  She sniffed it then walked away.  I made the mistake of leaving the handle upright and she came back and began to chew it, but when I put the handle down she left it alone.  The next day I decided to give playing another go but this time standing up again.  I set up a music stand carefully, did some vocal warm-ups and then began to play and sing.  No reaction.  She completely ignored me and went back to puppy activities.  So what was the difference?

I think that because I was closer to her level when sitting, the sound of the ukulele was much louder to sensitive puppy ears.  Shutting the case suddenly startled her and made her anxious before I had even started to play and this did not help.  Also the human-like shape of the instrument when upright could have been threatening.  I don’t sit down often which is just as well and I won’t be doing this again until she is well and truly used to the sound of the ukulele and feels more comfortable in her new home.

It just goes to show that each dog is different and you need to be very careful when introducing them to new experiences.  In the future I hope that she will be able to sing-a-long with our other dog, who really enjoys the ukulele.

Kat,     Bayside Ukes Member